The Health Benefits in a Hug!

Hugs Are Therapeutic

As children, we all remember the healing power in our mother’s touch. The pain of a skinned knee or a bruised elbow was soon set right by her loving caress. Childhood colds and diseases were soothed away by the touch of our mother’s hands on our brow, or rubbing our chests with old-fashioned Vapor Rub.

The medical profession can’t explain how this phenomenon works, or why it works, but they acknowledge that a caring touch from a loved one can help healing.

With this in mind, many of today’s medical students are taking their pre-medical training in osteopathic medicine – a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874, by frontier doctor, Andrew Taylor Still. He founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the father of medicane.

twenty second hug

In this practice, the doctor is taught to use palpation, or hands-on, diagnosis to recognize the somatic components of the patient’s problem and to use osteopathic manipulation treatment in the total care of the patient.

The osteopathic medical student receives, in addition, to the standard medical curriculum, some 300-500 hours of training in manipulation treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including joints, muscles and connective tissues.

The rise in chiropractic practices, massage therapy and holistic medicine suggests patients are searching for something other than a pill to cure their ills, perhaps something they remembered from their mother’s touch.

For too long now, people have withdrawn from the old-fashioned custom of touching one another when they greet. Fear of catching someone’s cold, or the latest virus going around, is partly to blame.

Also, we’ve had to deal with a new taboo: sexual harassment, which put the damper on the most natural of human greetings – the warm and friendly hug. Consequently, touching between coworkers, friends and relatives, was put on the shelf – brought out only in times of grief or consolation.

With the new interest in osteopathic medicine across the country, health practitioners now respect the benefits of the human touch when used in treatment and therapy. With it comes a new appreciation for the old-fashioned custom of a hugs and handshakes.

I’ve seen it in the shopping malls, at the coffee houses and in the tea rooms of town. I’ve witnessed it in the doorways and on the front porch stoops of my neighborhood and the homes of my friends and family.

Since Aristotle first listed the five human senses, scientific understanding of these senses has come a long way,but we still don’t know precisely how some of the senses work, especially the sense of touch. We know that our skin contains several senses in the sense track.

These cells and fibers are scattered throughout our skin, with our fingertips and our lips containing an especially large collection of these cells. That would account for the popularity of kissing and touching.

True, we live in a world where a measure of conformity is required, where conventions are respected and precedents must be observed, and where rules were made to be followed. But, occasionally, the benefits received from a hardy hug or a warm embrace are worth breaking the rules. It’s time to do something reckless … hug a loved one in public.

This is not to suggest people go around willy-nilly, indiscriminately hugging complete strangers, especially in the workplace, where a sexual harassment suit can be filed more quickly than yesterday’s news.

For years, research has taught us the importance of touching and hugging to our health. Touch therapist Helen Colton taught us how touching is necessary to our well-being and can enhance our lives.

Author and lecturer Dr. Leo Buscaglia dedicated his life to the better understanding of human love. He is known, worldwide, as “The hug doctor.” Buscaglia valued the hug and believed it was essential to lead a long and healthy life. So far, no one has proven that a caring hug can be detrimental to our health.

Buscaglia said, “A hug is a human affirmation of how much we value and cherish one another, an outlet that’s good for the hugger as well as the hugged.”

The art of the healing touch and massage goes back to Cleopatra (30 B.C.) who used the benefits of this ancient therapy by instructing her slaves to bath and rub her nightly in a potent blend of rare oils.

Touching and manipulation of the body has become therapeutic. Witness the yellow pages, where you’ll find hundreds of listings for touch therapy centers and training schools. They include training and treatment in acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic therapy that promise to cure everything from headache to chronic fatigue and post-menstrual syndrome.

Retirement communities have discovered the benefits of the human touch, offering their residents daily classes in relaxation and therapeutic massage. The elderly residents who attend these classes are found to be among the center’s most healthy and well adjusted.

My Italian grandfather used to say, “You get from this life what you put into it.” I believe it’s true, and that it also applies to physical well being and affection. So, if you want to be on the receiving end of an affectionate, healing hug, a warm embrace, or a loving touch, begin by distributing them freely among your friends and family.

Cookie Curci
Cookie Curci is an experienced freelance writer, born and raised in San Jose, California. Cookie writes syndicated columns across the country, and wrote a "Remember When" column for The Willow Glen Resident for 15 years. Her work has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for The Soul books, and in the series of "Mother's Miracle" books ( Morrow books).She has a short story in the new book "ELVIS", Live at the Sahara Tahoe; has been published in San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury news, Woman's World, Primo magazine, Mature Living, and many websites.Cookie is currently writing for several Italian American newspapers and magazines, they include LaVoce Las Vegas, Amici Journal, L'italo Americano, Life in Italy and Italiansrus.